Apple makes a deal to open iPhone to Generation GenAI


Apple may have agreed to a deal to offer Chat GPT support within Siri on iPhones, according to the New York Times and Bloomberg. The deal might also eventually extend to other generative AI (GenAI) services, including Google Gemini, though no additional agreements are yet in place. This is just the latest in a rash of stories exploring the company’s AI plans.

It isn’t clear exactly how Apple will approach this. It’s possible the company will offer iPhone users the choice to use these services to replace its Siri voice assistant, and we’re likely to learn more about its implementation plans at WWDC in June. These will likely extend across its platforms.

How to secure Generation GenAI

Apple’s challenge will be to maintain the user privacy and security it prides itself in offering on its devices, while also supporting third-party chatbots. I do wonder if the company is investing in some form of OpenAI’s ChatGPT for Enterprise product, which provides additional privacy and security protection features.

The New York Times report confirms the company felt it missed the boat on genAI in the first instance, but also suggests the signal importance with which Apple regards this technology now. Among other things, it claims the company’s decision to close down its multi-billion dollar Apple Car project was made in order to transfer resources to the company’s in-house genAI development efforts. 

The report also describes some of the challenges secretive Apple has in attracting leading AI talent, noting that some new hires subsequently quit as they felt constrained by the need for secrecy. 

Setting up for a better Siri

For Siri, the main issue Apple execs hope to resolve through the deployment of ChatGPT is the capacity to deliver more accurate contextual understanding.

At present, Siri has no understanding of context, which means it just isn’t good at engaging in more complex tasks than stating the weather or turning music on. ChatGPT lets you define numerous factors to provide much more granular information. The company could also reach similar deals with other companies to offer their takes on genAI. (Apple is thought to have been in talks with both Baidu and Google in this regard.)

Bloomberg reports three primary strands to the company’s attempts:

  • On-device genAI: Solutions that run on the device, no server required,
  • Coud-powered AI: Cloud-based intelligence similar to that provided by ChatGPT.
  • Chatbot services: A more intelligent, contextually-aware Siri. It’s possible Apple will send some or all Siri enquiries to a third party service, Bloomberg said.

What is at stake

The need to protect its iPhone kingdom is the primary motivation at Apple. The company apparently feels that the use of genAI, and intelligent agents powered by that technology, could eventually supplant both iOS and the App Store. “…it has the potential to become the primary operating system, displacing the iPhone’s iOS software,” wrote the New York Times, citing company insiders. 

Apple won’t be fully dependent on third-party AI, as it has its own solutions also in development. These include improving Siri’s ability to handle tasks it already manages, while extending its feature set with new tools the company can then introduce as being more private than other services. In part, this will be because some of the processing will take place, as we’ve anticipated, on the device itself. 

The report also confirms recent claims Apple is developing new silicon for use in data centers. The idea here will be to reduce server costs, improve energy efficiency and to bake privacy into the system in order to maintain user security.

Will WWDC be make or break for Cupertino?

It is important to note that the frequency of reports concerning Apple’s plans for AI is accelerating as we ramp toward the company’s big developer event, WWDC. This strongly suggests that Apple will introduce new components to its overall plan for AI at the show. 

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Apple, Artificial Intelligence, Generative AI, iOS, iPhone, Siri

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